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Taranto 1940

Taranto 1940 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review December 2015 Title Taranto 1940
Author Angus Konstam Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2015 ISBN 9781472808967
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $21.95

Review

Two waves of carrier-based warplanes stage a stealthy, synchronized strike on an enemy naval base – which defenders consider “virtually immune to air attack”.

Attackers sustain light losses. And the foe’s battleship fleet suffers debilitating damage.

Pearl Harbor 1941? Nope: Taranto 1940 – the title of a superb little study in Osprey’s popular “Campaign” series.

Subtitled “The Fleet Air Arm's precursor to Pearl Harbor”, the compact chronicle recaps the Royal Navy’s nocturnal strike on Fascist Italy’s Taranto anchorage, 11-12 Nov 1940.

It “was the first time carrier-borne aircraft had been used to attack a heavily defended naval base,” author Angus Konstam reveals. “The raid not only revolutionized naval warfare, it also changed the course of the war.”

But the night action itself first required an equally radical Admiralty attitude adjustment. France had recently fallen. Nazi Germany threatened invasion of the British isles. And Royal Navy could only muster minimal assets against Italy’s locally superior Regia Marina.

Airpower proved the “equalizer” British Mediterranean Fleet commander Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham sought. And Konstam competently chronicles key elements of the air assault on Taranto – Operation Judgment.

Following Osprey’s proven prescription, contents course through opposing British and Italian commanders, forces and plans. The action and immediate aftermath consume most of the narrative. Photos, action paintings and maps illustrate the account. And a “Taranto Today” section, selected bibliography and index complete contents.

Quibbles? I believe the Blackburn Skua sired the Blackburn Roc – not vice-versa. Which personality is which in the photo on page 20? That’s Cant Z.501 “Gabbiano”. And I’d really appreciate some annotations.

Historians still debate Operation Judgment’s impact on Japanese plans for Pearl Harbor. Regardless, the raid “had dramatically tilted the odds in Britain’s favor” – and confirmed that Fascist Italy remained “no longer capable of winning the war in the Mediterranean” without Germany’s help.

Each November, “Taranto Night dinners” still commemorate the Fleet Air Arm’s audacious 1940 attack. “The Raiders had struck a decisive blow,” Konstam concludes, “the equivalent of a large scale naval victory if it had been fought using more conventional means.”

Find out how it all happened. Grab this ripping little read.

Highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!

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